Harvesting Resources in MMORPGs
I have always loved the act of going out to gather resources. There’s something so meaningful about the accumulation of raw resources, whether it be to take those resources and create something yourself, have someone else use them to make something for you, or to simply sell. Harvesting resources can be so much more than that, though, and should be if a MMO ever hopes to create a harvesting system that’s meaningful.
My days of meaningful crafting in MMOs were few, relatively speaking. My big claim to crafting fame was in SWG where I made millions and millions of credits as a Chef back in the early days when I could make various foods and drinks to radically improve people’s stats. I took those millions and invested them into a vast network of resource gathering harvesters (by purchasing other people’s slots to use them since you could only have one character). I took them resources and either used them, flipped them raw, or converted them into items that I then resold. At one point I even opened up a tailor shop and a weapons and armor shop where other crafters sold their goods on consignment — goods they made with my resources.
I’m a believer in harvesting resources being more than smacking a random node that then disappears. That’s lame, and I don’t find it ‘fun’ at all.
Resources should feel like they were built into the world, and harvesting them should feel like more than right clicking a node and walking away. I’m a fan of how UO handled harvesting resources — it was actually a full-time role you could play. I liked how SWG handled resource gathering in as much as it was something you could devote a significant amount of your playstyle toward; what I did not like, however, was littering the landscape with harvesters. Yet, at the same time, I love what those seas of harvesters meant. They meant there was a ‘real’ physical representation of a rare resource located there. People came to that spot because that spot had purpose.
When we talk about creating a meaningful gathering / harvesting system, my mind immediately goes to the size of the world and how the devs are creating the rest of the systems. Is the world small, or based on micro-experiences? Is the world ‘played-through’ or ‘lived in’? See where I’m going? Resource gathering works best in larger worlds with immersive ecosystems and economies rather than smaller worlds or worlds built with short-lived experiences meant to be played-through on the player’s journey to the end-game.
I simply can’t get excited about harvesting resources unless someone makes a MMO and tells me that a player can choose to be a miner as their main class, and that person being a miner means every bit as much to the game as someone who decides they want to be a warrior and go slay dragons.